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EU has no plans to approve GMOs

01/22/2013 @ 1:36pm

The European Union's executive body isn't planning to proceed with the approval of new genetically modified crops in the immediate future, as it seeks to strike a deal with the bloc's member countries on rules to smooth the process, a spokesman said Tuesday.

"The priority now is to push for agreement on the directive," the spokesman for health issues at the European Commission said.

EU governments are deadlocked over a proposal that would give national governments the power to restrict or ban cultivation of genetically modified crops. The proposal, drafted by the Commission, would give member states the power to restrict or ban genetically modified organism, or GMO, crops; even after an EU approval procedure based on health and environment risk assessment has given the green light.

But ministers haven't yet been able to agree because some, like Germany, questioned the plan's compatibility with rules regulating the EU single market. Others voiced concern that the proposal wouldn't provide a sufficiently sound legal basis for the bans, exposing them to potential challenges.

The EU stance on GMOs has been highly controversial. Under current regulations, which have exasperated the bloc's major trading partners such as the U.S. and caused friction with the World Trade Organization, any modified crop must undergo a strenuous approval process that often varies significantly between countries.

A decade-long opposition by some member countries--who have to back the authorization by a qualified majority--has been slowing approvals, with decisions ultimately falling on the Commission because of continued disagreements in national governments.

This has led to the approval of only two genetically modified products, an anti-pest strain of corn developed by Monsanto Co. (MON), called Monsanto 810, and a starch potato, called Amflora, developed by Germany's BASF SE (BAS.XE).

Seven more products are in the pipeline, six of which are maize seeds and one is a soybean.

European public opinion is also sharply divided on the issue and non-governmental organizations have been campaigning to oppose use of GMOs.

Write to Alessandro Torello at alessandro.torello@dowjones.com

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(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 22, 2013 13:08 ET (18:08 GMT)

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